Ethiopia is entering a new era. However, much Ethiopian political discourse is fragmented, polarized, polemical and dominated by the logic of ethno-nationalism.

In this paper, I have tried to pose key questions and introduce some concepts that I believe are relevant to the Ethiopian predicament today. My principal motivation is that my framework of the ‘political marketplace’ suggests that the reforms undertaken by PM Abiy may have the unintended consequence of facilitating a political marketplace system in Ethiopia. Rather than a dynamic market economy and a flourishing liberal democracy, Ethiopia runs the risk of having a façade of these characteristics, while forfeiting many of the gains of sustainable development, social welfare, functioning institutions, and foreign policy autonomy. Is Ethiopia to become a small open economy in a turbulent global market, as a junior associate of a military coalition that is transactional, not treaty-based? And, perhaps the most pressing question of the day, is the EPRDF able to manage the dynamics of conflictual ethnonational political mobilization that emerge from its own ranks, legitimized by the political system that it has constructed and dominated?


I  hope that this paper will be a small contribution towards stimulating such a public debate.

The World Peace Foundation, an operating foundation affiliated with the Fletcher School at Tufts University, aims to provide intellectual leadership on issues of peace, justice and security. We believe that innovative research and teaching are critical to the challenges of making peace around the world and should go hand-in-hand with advocacy and practical engagement with the toughest issues.

The Conflict Research Program at the London School of Economics aims to understand why contemporary violence is so difficult to end and to analyze the underlying political economy of violence with a view to informing policy. The research sites are Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Professor Alex de Waal is the Executive Director at the World Peace Foundation at The Fletcher School, Tufts University, and Research Program Director with the Conflict Research Program at London School of Economics.


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